Terry Gross Gross-Out

Did someone declare it Weird Food Week? Tuesday’s Fresh Air radio program featured an interview with University of Guelph food scientist Massimo Marcone, author of In Bad Taste? The Science and Adventures Behind Food Delicacies. Following in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain’s 2002 A Cook’s Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines, Marcone tries to narrow the weird food field by concentrating on “normal” food that’s been transformed in very strange ways.

With that in mind, he travels to Indonesia to drink Kopi Luwak, coffee brewed from beans pooped out by civet cats, and to Italy to sup on Casu Frazigu, cheese that has been infested with millions of tiny maggots. The latter provided some great lines for In Bad Taste?: “At first you can smell it, and then you can hear it … those millions of maggots that are in the cheese are literally jumping, and as they’re jumping they’re hitting the container that the cheese is in, and you can hear this click, click, click sound. ... We usually don’t think of hearing our food, but in this case you can smell it and hear it.” The Casu Frazigu had to be refrigerated before Marcone could eat it, to calm the maggots down, but he says it was delicious, soft, and “almost like Asiago cheese. It had a bite to it.”

Food blog Weird Eats reviews Marcone’s book, which also includes tales of bird’s nest soup, argan oil from nuts found in goat dung, and “assorted edible insects.” “He even throws in a buying guide, of sorts,” writes Weird Eats, “which is useful, given the fact that many of these rare foodstuffs tend to be counterfeited or adulterated.”

So what won’t Dr. Marcone eat? Yams. He told a Canadian newspaper, “I don’t like yams. It basically grosses me out.”

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